As restrictions continue to lift across the UK, the Sex Education star tells Olivia Petter how single people can prepare themselves to the return of real-life dating
It’s no secret that the pandemic has not been kind to single people. With social distancing measures and the ever-changing restrictions that limit where you can and can’t go, it has been near-impossible to date normally, let alone be intimate with someone, since the coronavirus outbreak began.
But as all restrictions look set to lift in England on 19 July, there’s a reason to be hopeful that the possibility of having a love life will soon return. That’s not to say things will instantly be smooth-sailing. Thanks to the advent of dating apps and social media, dating today is a complex art, one made even more complicated when you haven’t been able to do it properly for more than a year.
Fear not. Ahead of the government’s lifting of all restrictions, The Independent spoke to Sex Education star Aimee Lou Wood about what advice she would give to single people who are feeling anxious about dating again. The 24-year-old actor, who is working with Bumble on its latest campaign to encourage people to start dating as we emerge from the pandemic, offers her top tips on making the first move and building up your confidence.
What advice would you offer to anyone who is feeling anxious about dating again as restrictions lift?
I think being clear and assertive about what you’re comfortable with is vital. It can be a scary thing to do because we want people to like us. And if we like someone, we don’t want to mess it up by saying, ‘You know, by the way, I’m not really into hugging at the moment, I’d rather go for an elbow shake’. It’s a daunting thing to have to do.
But the right person is going to respond so well to that. In a way, it’s a great test of a person, I think. If they don’t respond well, then they probably aren’t worth your time.
What about people who have lost body confidence and are feeling worried about being intimate again?
I’m really saddened that people have lost body confidence during lockdown. I think a lot of people feel like their body is a project that they have to fix. It’s just been the most bizarre 12 months. Loads of us have just been in our pajamas for most of the time.
We need to be kind to ourselves and focus on just restoring our body with what it needs. I would just advise people to go at their own pace. One of your mates might be out there snogging everyone but that doesn’t mean that you have to or that you’re in a worse place. You’re just in a different place.
What would to say to women who are nervous about making the first move?
I’ve always found that such a weird thing in straight couples. Like, I remember watching Friends and Monica proposes to Chandler. I loved that. And I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, why not?’ Like, if I’m being really young, and absorbing that and thinking, why does it always fall to the guy to instigate something? It’s a weird kind of archaic thing.
You know, we live in this kind of patriarchy, and women feel as a result that they have to be the passive ones in order to be liked. And it can be a really big thing to unlearn. My advice would be to recognise that the problem doesn’t lie with you, it’s actually just a societal thing. And like most societal things, it’s bulls***t.
And I think a lot of the time, a guy is very thankful when a girl makes the first move, because they also don’t want the constant pressure of having to ask someone out. It’s a thing that we can all kind of unravel together and untangle.
How did you find being in a relationship during the pandemic?
It’s quite intense, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not normal to spend that amount of time with another human being. So it’s a lot. But I think I’ve learned so much about myself as well through it, and how important communication is. Like, you just have to be relentlessly honest and communicating all the time.
Do you think we have a ‘summer of love’ ahead of us?
I really hope so. And in every way, too. People are getting to see their families for the first time in ages, friends can hang out again. So I think it will be a very lovable summer. But I also think that again, there’s this pressure thing, because everyone’s saying, ‘this is gonna be like Woodstock in the 1960s’ and I think that can sometimes make people who aren’t ready for that feel quite freaked out.
We should just reframe it a little. Because there are so many different kinds of love. Platonic love is just as important as romantic love and sexual love. So I think rather than all being geared towards romance, I would love it to just be a loving summer in whatever way people want it to be.
What made you want to work with Bumble in particular?
I have lots of friends that use Bumble, and it’s really close to their hearts because it’s kind of the only dating app that they feel truly empowered and safe to be on. Given that, in straight relationships, women have to message the men first, they have more agency and control over how they behave. This was kind of the first app that offered that, and so my friends feel safe on it, which is so important.
Are you on Bumble or any other dating apps yourself?
Not at the moment because I’m not single. But I have been helping curate lots of my friends Bumble profiles recently, which has been really fun.
I’ve never been on a dating app since being recognisable. So I wouldn’t know what that’s like. If I’m really honest, I would probably be quite anxious about that.